Although there have been improvements in societal acceptance of LGBT individuals in recent years, lesbian discrimination in the workplace is still a prevalent problem in New Jersey. According to Catalyst, 22% of LGBT Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers, almost half (46%) are closeted in the workplace, and over half (53%) have have heard lesbian or gay jokes at work.
The lesbian community had a victory recently when the Supreme Court ruled that firing an employee because of their sexual orientation is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Additionally, Title VII prohibits gender discrimination, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Many states, including New Jersey, have also enacted state laws to specifically address these types of employment discrimination.
New Jersey Law And Lesbian Discrimination in the Workplace
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation. Therefore, the NJLAD prohibits lesbian discrimination based on, among other traits:
- Familial status
- Marital status
- Domestic Partnership or civil union status
- Affectional or sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
Despite this state law, many lesbian employees are still unfortunately subject to workplace discrimination, including harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation. According to Catalyst: 20% of LGBT Americans have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs, and 22% have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers. This issue scales all the way up to leadership positions: fewer than 0.3% of Fortune 500 board directors are openly LGBT in 2020. Lesbian individuals who have experienced such workplace discrimination may have been:
- Demoted, unfairly disciplined, or fired because they are a lesbian.
- Denied promotions or other advancement opportunities based on their sexuality.
- Denied access to facilities or resources in the workplace due to their sexuality.
- Given differential treatment or compensation because of their sexual orientation.
- Subject to inappropriate jokes, remarks, stereotyping, or other behavior that contributes to a hostile work environment.
- Discriminated based on gender expression, such as their clothing, manner of speaking or mannerisms.
- Retaliated against for coming out regarding their gender identity.
- Subject to sexual harassment based on their sexual orientation.
At McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C., our attorneys believe that all employees are entitled to a workplace that is free from discrimination. While rights for lesbian employees have expanded in the past few years, there is still much to be accomplished. Our NJ lesbian discrimination lawyers fight to obtain maximum compensation for those affected by workplace discrimination.
Lesbian Discrimination and the June 2020 Supreme Court Decision
In a historic 6-3 decision on June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that an employee cannot be fired for being gay or transgender under federal law (Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020)). This case was brought by three workers in Georgia who claimed that they were fired from their jobs because they were gay or transgender. By focusing on the plain text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Court determined that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” For example, if an employer fires a woman who is married to a woman, but would not fire a man if he was married to a woman, they are taking action because of gender.
While workers in roughly half the country had previously been protected by local laws that prevented lesbian discrimination in the workplace, this was the first time employers were barred from firing lesbian employees on a federal level. This development is a milestone for the lesbian community and is sure to have wide-ranging effects on sexual orientation discrimination cases in New Jersey and across the country.
Filing A Complaint for Lesbian Discrimination
New Jersey lesbian employees who have experienced workplace discrimination on their sexual orientation may file a complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court or with the Division of Civil Rights (DCR), a New Jersey state agency. Filing with DCR is not required and an employee may sue her employer directly in Superior Court. Before filing a complaint, employees who feel they have been the victim of lesbian discrimination should contact McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. first to discuss your rights and various options.
How New Jersey Employers Can Prevent Lesbian Discrimination in the Workplace
Employers should be aware of applicable federal and state laws to avoid sexual orientation or gender identity-based discrimination claims. It is the responsibility of an employer to take proactive measures to prevent, investigate, address, and defend any possible claims of lesbian discrimination. If it is determined that unlawful discrimination occurred, companies and their administrators may be subject to statutory penalties or ordered to take affirmative action to remedy the discrimination.
To avoid legal penalties and ensure that you are taking appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful workplace discrimination, it is imperative to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can provide sound advice regarding your responsibilities under employment law.
Remedies And Penalties for Lesbian Discrimination in NJ
If you have been the victim of lesbian discrimination in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief including reinstatement, hiring, upgrading, back pay and damages for pain and humiliation. The New Jersey LGBT discrimination lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. are experienced in exploring all legal options for lesbian discrimination claims. Contact our Red Bank or Marlton office today to discuss your case, and our law firm will help you every step of the way in seeking justice for unlawful lesbian discrimination in the workplace.